Tuesday, 11 June 2013

Book 21 of 2013: Notes From The Underground by Fyodor Dostoyevsky

I needed a letter N for the HTV Spring Reading Challenge and as I didn’t have any book-books that would fit the bill I turned to my Kindle. I had a few on there (I downloaded several free books beginning with N as part of the Winter Challenge) but I decided to look for something from my 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die category. I don’t think I had a huge amount to chose from but Notes from the Underground by Fyodor Dostoyevsky was one of the shortest choices, so that’s what I went with.

Image from Wikipedia
(Not the edition that I read)
Having read, and not particularly enjoyed, The Idiot during the Winter Challenge I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect. Looking back at this a month and a half later, I’m not entirely sure why, after disliking the last Dostoyevsky book that I read, I went for this one over something that might have been a longer read but which I might have enjoyed a little more. I don’t remember very much about the actual plot of this one, other than the fact that it’s a kind of philosophical, stream-of-consciousness story, talking about society. I think.

It was divided in two with the first part being largely written in a sort of stream-of-consciousness style. It was rambling and I quite enjoyed it. The way it was written was just as though someone was talking, as a writer of long rambling blog posts I appreciate it when someone is happy to sit and read something like that. I disliked the second part which was sort of where the action was. I did find the whole thing very hard to follow though and I often felt like I wasn’t understanding what it was on about.

In the second part the narrator was just not a very likeable person. I couldn’t help but wonder if he had some sort of mental health issues. He was very dramatic and self-centred; nobody liked him and I couldn’t help but think ‘it’s because you’re a horrible person’!

The narrator behaved in really strange ways; like inviting himself to a going-away party for a member of a group of friends who he didn’t really like, insulting people and being weird and then being upset that he’d upset them. He behaved like a child having a temper tantrum and I just couldn’t warm to him at all. My opinion of him did change slightly around three-quarters of the way through the book when he met Liza, a prostitute, and was quite nice to her for a while, encouraging her to get out while she still could. But then he did a complete 180 and became a jerk again.

I’m glad that this was a short book because I was able to get through it very quickly but I really didn’t understand what it was supposed to be about. I can’t say that I’m likely to try it again. I’m determined to not let my dislike of Dostoyevsky’s stories put me off Russian writers, I’m just going to keep looking until I find a Russian novel I can enjoy.

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